Grammar Challenge

Another useful article by Robert Harrell:

The quiz below can be given to teachers who teach using the old grammar model of teaching languages. So if you get into one of those uncomfortable discussions with a teacher in your building who still touts grammar as the (“academic”) way to teach a language (there is no research to support such a claim) then offer them this quiz from Robert Harrell. Maybe what they are really doing to their students will help them come around to a greater awareness of what the actual research says, that we learn languages by focusing on the language and not its forms.

A Modest Grammar Quiz

Please give the correct form for each of the following verbs:

1. to drink – 3rd person neuter singular present perfect active

2. to go – 2nd person plural future perfect active

3. to hang – 1st person singular future perfect passive

4. to speak to – 3rd person plural pluperfect passive

5. to equivocate with the idiom “to go” – 3rd person feminine singular future continuous active

6. to hang – 3rd person neuter singular pluperfect passive

7. to hear – 2nd person singular pluperfect passive

8. to lay – 3rd person masculine singular future perfect progressive active

9. to lie (= be in a horizontal position) – 3rd person feminine singular present perfect active

10. to know – 3rd person masculine singular pluperfect passive subjunctive

Bonus: Use the verb in #10 in a conditional sentence.

For those who don’t want to think this through, here are the answers

1. It has drunk

2. You will have gone

3. I will have been hanged

4. They had been spoken to.

5. She is going to be equivocating

6. It had been hung

7. You had been heard

8. He will have been laying

9. She has lain

10. Had he been known

Bonus: Sample sentence: Had he been known to the bouncer, Sir Paul McCartney would not have

been turned away from Tyga’s Grammy party.


Naturally, as with all grammar-based quizzes, if any part of an answer is wrong the whole answer is wrong. Non-standard constructions are also wrong. I would be interested in knowing how many questions are missed.

1. a typical error will be “it has drank”

2. some sociolects will say “you will have went”

3. when referring to people, “to hang” uses a regular/weak past participle (remember the

judicial sentence in the Old West: “to be hanged by the neck until dead”)

4. Some people will try to avoid putting “to” at the end of the sentence, thinking of it as a

preposition rather than part of the verb. (Think of Winston Churchill’s famous “. . . and that is

something up with which I will not put”)

5. My guess is that there will be a number of “She is going to equivocate” answers, forgetting

the progressive element is in both parts

6. This is the opposite of number 3; when referring to things “to hang” uses the

irregular/strong past participle (”the stockings were hung by the chimney with care”)

7. This one’s pretty straightforward if you know the jargon

8. and 9. deal with the confusion of lay/lie; 9. may very well get a response of “she has laid”

10. Most people have no idea that the pluperfect subjunctive even exists, let alone what it look like.

If one of the “Grammar Master” colleagues complains that the “quiz” is advanced, remind him/her that it merely tests at the level the language is used. These are, after all, advanced speakers. It is no harder for them than the typical grammar quiz in a beginning, “intermediate” or “advanced” high school language class is for the students at that level.



4 thoughts on “Grammar Challenge”

  1. Ben, ha, ha, this quiz is super easy for a Latinist. This is what we have been trained to do with Latin for most of our education. Talking about verb tenses in this way comes second nature to us. So many students–who care about this sort of thing and think it means they know Latin–will say they could never get English grammar until they took Latin. I’m not defending the heavy emphasis on verb conjugating in Latin–just saying if you’ve been doing that for most of your career, as I have, grammar gymnastics is easy and even fun in a nerdy way, and helps students who may be called upon to do this in English or another language they study.

    Of course, even if you can get everything on the quiz right, that’s not why you are a fluent English speaker, just as Latin students may be able to parrot paradigms of verbs without being able to pick up something in Latin and read it easily without a laborious decoding process that isn’t reading.

  2. Points taken. Where is the Latin teaching profession these days in terms of wanting to teach their students how to speak Latin? Probably not much has changed…? I know that Latin Best Practices started rolling over ten years ago, but is it still the domain of the few like John Piazza and Bob Patrick?

    1. I’d say the state of Latin overall is lagging behind in the change over to CI/TPRS. Most people give me a blank look if I mention TPRS. There are some stellar examples out there of Latin teachers coming on board, but the vast majority, not so much. There’s a big trend in classical language textbooks to include a running story as they explain the grammar, but the stories don’t give nearly enough repetition of the language to count as CI. They are basically grammar books with a not-very-interesting story tacked on, with the claim that they are making peace between the grammar-translation camp and the nature/direct method proponents. “Best of both worlds” their authors claim. The ones more truly dedicated to CI use the Nature method textbook Lingua Latina per se Illustrata: Familia Romana, which is one long story told in 35 chapters, with each chapter increasing in language complexity. It’s not pure CI, certainly not NTCI, but much better than anything else on the market. This is what I teach from, but I’m seeing its limitations after my exploration of TPRS this summer. It still is very good at developing reading proficiency and students enjoy it. The situation is improving as far as reading material at beginning and intermediate levels, but most teachers start trying to force students to read the ancient authors too soon, who are way above the level of students who have only studied a few semesters. So students can’t read Latin–they are taught coping strategies for the fact that they can’t read it (per Justin Slocum Bailey). Latin still has a long way to go; but so do other languages, too. Other names besides Piazza and Patrick would be Justin Slocum Bailey, Keith Toda, Lance Piantaginni, Andrew Olimpi ( to give you an idea who’s out there in Classics that I know of.

      1. I’m glad to read this in such detail. My evaluation, based on what you say above and the silence of recent years, is that the big 2010 explosion of Latin/TPRS is like a deflated balloon. It just happened a few years after the modern language TPRS loud boom of around 2006-2007 followed by its whimper now (bc it can’t make a clean jump away from traditional thinking).

        Oh well. Thanks for this description. I’ve always thought that the entire change will take from 50 to 75 years. But I DO think that it will eventually happen. We will eventually learn how to teach using the language in language classrooms, and slowly, one teacher at a time, comprehensible input will outlast the petrified and rust-covered dullness that traditional teaching still is now, esp. glaringly so as a result of the changes imposed by COVID.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben